Chrysler is betting $2-billion on a completely revamped, Canadian-built minivan – a minivan that will be priced in line with the top end of the segment.
The base price will start at just less than $44,000 and the top-of-the-line will be available for just less than $53,000, Chrysler said Thursday.
- Pacifica Touring L: $43,995
- Pacifica Touring L-Plus: $46,995
- Pacifica Limited: $52,995
While the price may seem high for a minivan, it is $1,200 less than the outgoing Town & Country, according to Chrysler, and it comes with more features and technology – including a stow-away vacuum, hand-free communication and Stow 'n Go seats.
"Any time a major auto maker revamps a line there is major interest," says Zachary Diamond, a sales and leasing consultant with Longman's Woodbine Chrysler in the Toronto suburb of Markham. He says the dealership has already received half a dozen orders and that was before people knew the final price. "The prevailing emotion is excitement."
To compare, the average buyer, according to Unhaggle, pays slightly more than $46,000 for the base model Town & Country and more than $50,000 for the Limited trim. The average Toronto buyer pays $41,370 for a top-of-the-line Toyota Sienna and $41,320 for a top-of-the-line Honda Odyssey.
"We believe we own the segment," says Ralph Gilles, FCA's head of design. "We invented the minivan a long time ago and have learned a lot about the customer."
When the Pacifica was revealed in January at the Detroit auto show, Gilles told Globe Drive that FCA gave serious thought to leaving the segment. In 2000, North Americans purchased 2 million minivans, but that number is down to about half a million as many drivers opt for SUVs. Despite the trend, FCA decided to bet big.
"We owe it to the segment," says Gilles. "I think we can change the conversation … I think it is on us. It is the crown jewel of the company. It was a big deal for us to look at it and do it right this time around."
Chrysler and Dodge have dominated the minivan market since the Magic Wagon debuted more than 30 years ago. In 2015, Canadians purchased 89,877 minivans, according to Good Car Bad Car, a sales tracking website – 55,928 of those people purchased either a Grand Caravan or a Town & Country.
The Pacifica is an eight-seater powered by a 3.6-litre, V-6 engine that pumps out 287 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission. FCA announced Tuesday that the minivan earned a highway-cycle fuel economy rating of 28 mpg from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That makes it one of the most fuel efficient minivans and is 12 per cent better than the Town & Country.
Despite these advances and all the new technology, Chrysler knows it is fighting a war on stigma. But the auto maker believes the Pacifica will change that.
"From a driving standpoint in terms of capabilities inside the vehicle, no UV can match it," said FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne to Globe Drive in January. "You're not embarrassed to drive this thing."
It is being built at the rebuilt Windsor Assembly Plant, which underwent a $3.7-billion renovation.
For the budget-conscious, FCA has committed to making the Dodge Grand Caravan as long as there is interest. It has a starting MSRP of $28,995.
According to a Chrysler release, 5 trim levels will be available in the U.S. starting at $28,595 U.S. The Touring-L trim will have an MSRP of $34,495 U.S.
The Pacifica will be available this spring and a hybrid version will be available in the fall. Diamond expects that when the hype dies down in about a year or so, there will be rebates available for the Pacifica.
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